Book Review – The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

One of my favourite books of the year so far, The Nothing Man is unlike any crime novel I’ve read before.

In part, it’s a true crime story written by the lone survivor of a vicious, murderous attack in a Corkonian family home that resulted in the deaths of her mother, father and seven-year-old sister. Eighteen years later, Eve has now grown to adulthood and is writing her story (despite spending most of her life trying to suppress it) as a means of drawing out the unknown killer or jog some memories from those who might have known him.

But the other side of the story is from the perspective of the Nothing Man – the oh-so-clever, never-left-any-evidence-hence-the-name, will-never-be-caught murderer – who is reading Eve’s book.

Thoroughly cat and mouse, with lots of twists and turns, I loved how bored the Nothing Man was by Eve’s written grief. I really enjoyed getting to know Detective Garda Sergeant Edward Healy, a great character, stuck on the case that remained unsolved, in crisis but stoic about it.

“His marriage, less than three years old, was one bad argument away from breaking down. Healy worried about the frequency and extent of his drinking, and then drank more so he could stop worrying about it for a while. At night he would lie awake, tormented by the feeling that he was standing at a crossroads, and if he didn’t move soon – if he didn’t make a decision, a drastic change in his life – something would burst out of the shadows and run him over, and after that there’d be no coming back.

“Not having anyone to talk to about this made it all the worse. Mental health wasn’t something the force even acknowledged back then, let alone prioritised. Members who’d had to deal with horrific scenes and frightening situations worked through what many of them would later come to suspect was PTSD over pints in the pub, and even then… As one member put it, the prevailing mood at the time was not one of support, but one-upmanship. ‘You think that’s bad? Wait until I tell you what I saw today!’”
38% in, Chapter Five, Westpark, The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

And I’ve found a new favourite author. The list is getting longer all the time.